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EMR: The Progress to 100% Electronic Medical Records

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As technology advances, electronic methods of storing information have become more prevalent and beneficial to organizations. Healthcare organizations are no exception as they move towards completely electronic systems to store patient records and other pertinent information, in a way that can be shared between physicians and different medical practices. Through the use of electronic medical records, healthcare providers have easier access to essential patient information.

Electronic Medical Records

Electronic medical records (EMR) have changed the way that traditional medical records are housed and managed. The digital way of maintaining patient medical records has shaped the healthcare industry allowing physicians to keep all information in one place, as well as easily share records between offices of providers. These systems are relatively new and as organizations work to implement the systems, the way EMR’s are used will continue to change and evolve.

Another facet of these systems is an Electronic Health Record (EHR), which differs slightly from the standard electronic medical record. EHR’s are defined as electronic medical records that “focus on the total health of the patient—going beyond standard clinical data collected in the provider’s office and inclusive of a broader view on a patient’s care.” The information housed on these systems can be shared across healthcare organizations providing physicians with a complete look at patient treatment and medical history.

The History of EHR’s

One of the earliest data processing systems originated in the mid 1960’s and focused specifically on clinical data management. As these systems (now known as hospital information systems) began to garner attention, the healthcare industry began to see the development of electronic medical record systems. The original systems were nowhere near as functional as modern methods of maintaining medical information. Also in the 1960’s, the development of the Problem Oriented Medical Record by Larry Weed introduced the idea of using electronic methods of recording patient information.

Shortly thereafter, in 1972, the first electronic medical record system was developed by the Regenstrief Institute. Although this technology was the first of its kind, due to high costs, the systems were not initially attractive to physicians and used instead by government hospitals and visionary institutions. Into the 1990’s, personal computers were becoming more affordable and the Internet emerged. These innovations allowed for faster, easier access to information and the introduction of health information online – setting the stage for web-based EMR’s.

In 1991, the Institute of Medicine made the case that by the year 2000, each physician’s office should be using computers in their practice in order to improve patient care. Although it was not turned into law, the Institute did provide a variety of recommendations to achieve that goal. As the emergence of EMR’s continued, there were also adjustments made to the rules and regulations surrounding privacy and confidentially of medical records. In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was introduced in response to growing issues facing healthcare coverage, privacy and security in the United States. To follow disclosure and confidentiality regulations included in HIPPA, organizations have begun to shift to electronic systems to comply with these laws.

With the emergence of web-based software in the early 2000’s the need for electronic medical record systems to be developed through remotely-hosted systems became evident. The ability to access information remotely or store on a remote-system, made the electronic method of keep records more appealing and ultimately more affordable for physicians to implement into their practice. During President George W. Bush’s time in the Oval Office, the budget for healthcare IT projects was doubled; a new sub-cabinet position of National Health Information Coordinator was created, as well as the call for an industry-wide adoption of electronic health record systems by 2014. This mandate has been supported by President Obama as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a piece of legislation aimed at directing additional funding and incentives to healthcare professionals who adopt these electronic medical systems and follow the concept of “meaningful use” by the year 2014.

Beginning in 2015, penalties are likely to be implemented on organizations that have not upgraded facilities to store medical records electronically. These penalties have been said to involve reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and are proposed to initially begin at 1% and increase as the years progress.

Benefits of Electronic Medical Record Systems

There are many identifiable benefits of using electronic medical record systems. Aside from being able to access records online and providing patients with access to their own personal health records, EMR’s create a way to store medical records in a more secure fashion. Below are some of ways the EMR’s are shaping the healthcare industry by making information more accessible.

Minimize Errors

Handwritten documents are subject to misspellings, illegible handwriting and often, different terminology is used by healthcare professionals. Although these issues cannot be entirely avoided, EMR’s provide a way to eliminate some of these inconsistencies and standardize patient records across the board.

Maximize Cost-Efficiency

Through effectively consolidating information in one central location, practices and healthcare facilities can rid themselves of tracking down and maintaining paper-based records. EMR’s offers the ability to share information almost instantly with other professionals, speeding up patient care and ultimately saving time and money for healthcare professionals.

Better Coordination between Healthcare Providers

As previously mentioned, these electronic systems allow for more effective coordination and communication between primary physicians and hospital care providers, when implemented. The information exchange through electronic health records is almost instantaneous and decreases the risk of information getting misplaced. In the past, patient records often did not reach hospitals in time, resulting in a lack of quality care for individuals seeking treatment. These files can share pertinent patient care information in terms of medical history, allergies and previous treatments that have been provided by primary care physicians.

Electronic medical records are progressively becoming more prevalent in healthcare facilities – working hand-in-hand with physicians and professionals to provide the best quality care for patients, as well as the best experience possible during treatments. By having the ability to share information across the industry, healthcare providers can save time and money on in their pursuit to effectively treat patients.

Those interested in advancing their healthcare career and understanding more about electronic medical record management will find the knowledge and resources available at The University of Scranton’s online MBA with a specialization in Healthcare Management site.

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